“We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined.
“The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action”
– Alcoholics Anonymous page 17
And it truly is a fellowship that is indescribably wonderful. At least that’s has been and continues to be my experience. The fourteens International convention held this year in Atlanta Georgia was no exception! 57,000 of my closest and dearest friends gathered over the 4th of July weekend to celebrate AA’s 80th birthday! And what a celebration it was!
The opening celebration on Thursday July 2 started with a flag ceremony. The crowd was electric with excitement as the announcer counted down to the beginning of the weekend event. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 .1 was displayed on the jumbo screens at the Georgia Dome. The crowd cheered as a marching drum band made its way through the capacity filed stadium and on to the stage. 98 countries from all over the world where represented. The first was a Native American, then alphabetically each presenter proudly carried their counties flag out from behind the stage and placed them in their stand on either side of the stage where they stayed throughout the conference. The opening ceremony cumulated with a speaker meeting in which three members of Alcoholics Anonymous shared what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now. The message of hope was strong and prevalent!
There were many more workshops than any one person could go to at once. There literally where at least four or five to choose from at any given time. It was suggested to me to get to the ones I wanted to attend at least a half hour early, which was good advice because the rooms tended to fill up very fast! Our friend Charlie T bought the entire set of recording so they will be available very soon. Saturday’s main meeting is what they call the “old timers” meeting. To be considered an old time you have to have 50 or more years. At that meeting there were 100 people with 50 years or more of sobriety, o in a little section in front of the stage sat over 5,300 years of sobriety! I can’t imagine that, I can’t imagine how much collective sobriety there was with 57,000 of us in the Georgia Dome!!! They drew 12 names from that 100 and each one got 5 minutes to share. I thought for sure they would get up there and say, “Ok boys and girls here’s how you do it . . . .” They didn’t! In fact one guy, I forget his name so I’ll call him Bob. When he got his turn he said, “My name’s Bob and I’m an alcoholic, I’m American / Mexican, except when I was drinking, then I was an Italian.” Then would just laugh and laugh, He said you guys give him the giggles! That’s attraction to me, that’s exactly what I want from this deal, and for the most part that’s exactly what I have. I am Happy, Joyous and Free!
Even with 57,000 of us there at the International and knowing that there are over 2 million members worldwide the thing that really struck me was that it’s still about one alcoholic sharing with another alcoholic. Two people carrying the message of hope, the message that our founders wrote in the first 164 pages of our book. We are so blessed to have this program of recovery, this way of living that really does work.
This year I decided two weeks before the conference to go, I had never attended one before. I’m already making plans for the next one that will be held in Detroit in 2020. I’m planning on renting a condo for the week. Anyone want to come with?